This time, the fights over the web-slinger
*UPDATE: Spider-Man is returning to the MCU after Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios reach a new deal to allow the web-slinger to feature in two more MCU films. The deal was announced on September 27th, 2019, and a new film featuring the fan-favorite is scheduled to be released on July 16th, 2021.*
Spider-Man may have ventured a little too far from home, as the fan-favorite is caught in quite a sticky place. On one side, you have your legal guardian, Sony, who owns the rights to your cinematic existence. On the other side, you have your best friends, Disney, who you make great movies with but need permission to do so first. So what’s the problem?
Disney, who owns Marvel, wants a bigger piece of the pie. While Disney is a major reason for Spider-Man’s return to prominence in the Marvel fandom, they’re salty about one small fact; they don’t own the rights to the character. That prestigious and very lucrative honor goes to Sony, via a 1998 deal that saw then stand-alone Marvel sell the movie rights to Spiderman for a mere $10 million USD. Sony had to throw in 5% of the gross revenue and half the merchandising proceeds but we don’t need to adjust for the minuscule inflation since then to know that the deal paid off.
The deal meant Sony has exclusive rights to produce and distribute films starring the web-shooting superhero, so long as they continue to release a film once every five years, at the very least. Sony would have to fully fund any movie, but in return, they receive all the box office revenue minus Marvel’s cut.
Fun fact: Marvel actually offered a plethora of other now-iconic characters including Iron Man, Thor, and Black Panther for $25 million USD, but Sony declined stating they only want Spiderman. Fair evaluation for the time, since those characters were nothing more than an after-thought, if that even, to the casual fan.
Back to the future, where a deal to share the rights to Spiderman with Marvel Studios has now expired leaving Peter Parker without a definite direction to swing. Sony and Disney struck a deal in 2015 to allow Spiderman to feature in five Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. This is why we’ve been able to see Spiderman alongside other Marvel favorites such as Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers.
Since Disney now owns Marvel, they also own half the merchandising rights and a 5% cut off box office revenue. This wasn’t enough for the media giant, who apparently offered a deal to co-finance the future production of Spider-Man films 50/50, according to Deadline. This would subsequently give them 50% of the revenue. There are reports that other, more reasonable offers were also made but Sony wasn’t having it.
Considering Far From Home grossed over $1.1 billion, we can understand why Sony is reluctant to gift Disney a larger share. So forgive us, but we will not be joining the social media frenzy of fans begging Sony to just give Spiderman back to Marvel (read Disney).
So where does the web-slinger hang now? Sony can still make movie starring Tom Holland, but these movies won’t be connected to the continuing MCU. While an opportunity for a new deal is still open, the possibilities for a new series featuring a Spidey vs Venom clash, or a multi-verse film with the introduction of a live-action Miles Morales are also wide open. All we can do now as fans is wait, and speculate, of course.